Hultquist v. People

Decision Date04 May 1925
Docket Number10998.
Citation236 P. 995,77 Colo. 310
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied June 1, 1925.

Department 3.

Error to Yuma County Court; I. L. Barker, Judge.

Lunacy proceeding to determine the sanity of Jennie S. Hultquist, in which an order of approval and commitment was entered and conservator appointed, and Jennie S. Hultquist brings error.

Reversed with instructions.

Allen, Webster & Drath, of Denver, for plaintiff in error.

Roy T Johnson, Dist. Atty., of Sterling, Louis Henks, Deputy Dist Atty., of Wray, Walter S. Coen, of Ft. Morgan, Wm. B Paynter, of Wray, and Omer T. Mallory, of Ft. Morgan, for the People.


This writ of error is to an order or decree of the county court of Yuma county, in a lunacy proceeding there pending, approving, February 1, 1923, the report of the lunacy commission that the defendant in that proceeding, Jennie S. Hultquist, plaintiff in error here, was so insane as to endanger her person and property if allowed to go at large. In connection with the review of the order and the commitment thereunder, plaintiff in error seeks also to have a review of a subsequent order of the same court in the same proceeding appointing a conservator of her estate.

A remarkable and lamentable state of facts is presented in this record. It is doubtful if its counterpart can be found in any recorded case. John Hultquist and his wife had been married for more than 30 years. Several sons and daughters were the fruit of the marriage. They were reasonably prosperous farmers and respected citizens of Yuma county. The husband and wife each owned an undivided one-half interest in the farm property, and it would seem that the prosperity that attended their joint efforts was due to her fully as much as to him. She was an equal partner in the business operations. On the night of January 31, 1923, John Hultquist, the husband, without suggestion to his wife or knowledge by her, filed in the county court of Yuma county his verified complaint charging that she was so insane and distracted in mind as to endanger her person and property if allowed to be at liberty. The proceeding was under chapter 118, p. 336, S. L. 1915 (chapter 18, p. 337, C. L. 1921), which relates to insane persons and mental incompetents. A special procedure is therein provided. In accordance therewith, an order of arrest was at once issued dated the same day the complaint was filed. The next morning, Mrs. Hultquist, and in his return defendant, Mrs. Hultquist, and in his return on the writ recited that he had taken her to her a copy of the complaint and a copy of the order of arrest. She was at one brought into court for examination and investigation by the lunacy commission appointed by the court, whose first session was fixed at 9:30 o'clock in the forenoon of that day. A guardian ad litem was appointed by the court on the night of January 31 at 8:30 o'clock, and notice of appointment that he then received required him to attend the first session at the time designated. The guardian at such time appeared before the commission and waived, as an aggravated case, the 5 days' notice of the first meeting of the commission, which was required by statute to be given in such a proceeding. He also waived the 2 days' notice to himself of the first session of the commission, which the statute required must be given to him.

When Mrs. Hultquist was arrested on the morning of February 1, she was preparing to go to a country sale. As the law contemplates, the sheriff was accompanied by a female assistant. A doctor whom defendant knew by name was with them. Defendant was taken at once from the place where she was to the office of the county judge. Before starting, she attempted to telephone to a woman friend at Wray, the county seat, to meet her there, but the telephone was taken from her hand and she was not allowed to communicate with her friend as she desired. There is a dispute as to whether a copy of the complaint or order of arrest was actually served upon her. The female attendant says she was present in the room where the defendant and the sheriff were, but saw no copy of either the complaint or order of arrest delivered by the sheriff to the defendant, but that the sheriff read copies. Mrs. Hultquist denies there was any reference made to either of these documents or that they were shown, delivered, or read to her, and that she did not know what the sheriff intended to do with her or the cause of her arrest. When she arrived at the office of the county judge, she was introduced to the guardian. She had not seen him theretofore, and has not thereafter seen him. He never spoke to her about the case or she to him, and she supposed he was there to see the county judge on some other business. There is some uncertainty as to what the return of the sheriff is, and it seems not to have been filed in the court until the following June. The sheriff did not testify before the commission or at the hearing on the application to vacate.

There was no hearing before the commission in the ordinary sense of that term; that is, no testimony was taken. The two members of the lunacy commission were doctors. They made no physical examination of Mrs. Hultquist. It was merely a case of silent observation on their part for a very short period of time. The county judge and the commissioners have no recollection of anybody testifying. The proceedings before the commission did not consume more than half an hour; some witnesses say not to exceed 15 minutes. Immediately after the close of the inquest the defendant unattended went to a dentist's office to have some work done on her teeth, and then was put on a train for Denver about 10 o'clock in the forenoon; the whole proceeding being completed in about an hour after the arrest. The report of the lunacy commission's finding being approved at once by the county judge, the order of commitment followed, which required the defendant to be confined in a hospital in Denver, which was not named, and commanded the sheriff to take her to the city of Denver, which was done, and she was delivered to the custody of a private physician who took her to Mercy Hospital, where she afterwards submitted to an operation for goiter and remained in the hospital for about two weeks until her recovery, when she was allowed by leave the hospital unattended and be at large.

No further attempt has been made to restrain her of her liberty, and no further attempt to enforce the court's order. She has been living with her sister and other friends from that time to the present. The defendant has not been furnished adequate support by her husband from the time this proceeding was instituted. The possession of the farm has been with him or some one selected by him, and farming operations have been continued. Within a year from the time of the order of commitment, and on January 24, 1924, the defendant, Mrs. Hultquist, filed an application in the county court to set aside the order of commitment upon grounds hereinafter stated, which request was denied. May 6, 1924, this writ of error was sued out to review the order or decree of February 1, 1923, approving the report of the lunacy commission, and in connection therewith for a review of the subsequent order appointing the conservator. Such other facts as are pertinent will appear in the following discussion. The principal matters relied upon for a reversal are grouped under four headings:

(1) All the proceedings of the county court from the time of the approval order down to the appointment of the conservator may be reviewed in this writ, and the proceedings set aside for the failure of the lower court and the guardian ad litem properly to protect the interests of the defendant; the lunacy commission proceeding being a continuing one, subject at all times to correction.

(2) The lower court was without jurisdiction to approve the report of the commission or adjudge plaintiff in error insane.

(3) The judgment of insanity was without due process of law.

(4) The conservator was improperly and erroneously appointed.

The defendant in error, the people, by the deputy district attorney and private counsel, controvert all these propositions.

1. In view of the conclusion which we have reached, it is not necessary to determine whether the alleged failure or errors of the county court are jurisdictional or errors of less dignity. This is not a civil action, and the procedure provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure are not applicable. The proceeding is a special statutory one, and the special statute itself provides a procedure full and complete in itself.

We think the evidence makes it clear that the sheriff did not deliver to the defendant a copy of the complaint or arrest order. It was imperative that he do so. As his return apparently was not filed until after the hearing, no opportunity was afforded defendant to object to it, or to contradict it, but, if there had been, as will appear later, it is likely that the opportunity would not have been availed of. This nonobservance of the statute constitutes reversible error.

It is the duty of the county court, under section 2 of the act, to designate the time and place for the first meeting of the commission. At least 5 days' notice of such time and place shall be given by the clerk of the court or the judge thereof to the person complained of, unless, in an aggravated case, waiver of such notice is made by the guardian ad litem with the permission of the court or the judge thereof. It seems that the guardian at litem, when notified of his appointment the night before the morning of the day fixed for hearing, of his own volition, and without any permission or approval by the court or judge, waived the 5...

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18 cases
  • People in Interest of Clinton, 87SC200
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • October 17, 1988 could be properly raised at any point in the proceedings. Id. (citing C.R.C.P. 12(h)(3)). II. Since our decision in Hultquist v. People, 77 Colo. 310, 236 P. 995 (1925), this court on several occasions has examined the impact of the failure to comply with statutory requirements in mental......
  • Gilford v. People, No. 99SC79.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • May 30, 2000 statutorily defined procedures. See Sabon v. People, 142 Colo. 323, 327-28, 350 P.2d 576, 579 (1960); Hultquist v. People, 77 Colo. 310, 315, 236 P. 995, 997 (1925). Since commitment proceedings are not designed to address criminal conduct, but rather are concerned only with the present ......
  • In re Guardianship of McNeel
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • March 31, 2005
    ...adjudication of insanity or mental incompetency are required to be in strict compliance with statutory requirements. Hultquist v. People, 77 Colo. 310, 236 P. 995 [(1925)]; State ex rel. Leonidas v. Larson, 109 Mont. 70, 92 P.2d 774 [(1939)]. In the absence of such compliance a judgment dec......
  • People in Interest of Lynch, 88SC198
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • November 27, 1989
    ...of the certification proceedings and invalidation of orders entered pursuant to those proceedings. See, e.g., Hultquist v. People, 77 Colo. 310, 236 P. 995 (1925) (failures to deliver copy of complaint to respondent in lunacy proceeding, to give guardian ad litem requisite notice of lunacy ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Clinton Redux: a Mental Health and Technical Defense Follow-up
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 22-11, November 1993
    • Invalid date
    ...15. People v. Reynes, 22 Colo.Law.. 1981 (Sept. 1993) (App. No. 92CA1359, annc'd 7/1/93). 16. See Dveirin, supra, note 10. 17. 236 P. 995, 77 Colo. 310 (1925). 18. 273 P.2 173 (Colo. 1954). 19. 267 P.2d 1021 (Colo. 1954). 20. 252 P.2d 91 (Colo. 1953). 21. Supra, note 7 at 1312. Column Ed.: ......

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